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Tease the Season

January 8, 2013

Multiple seasons converge between the feasting days of Thanksgiving and Super Bowl.

Christians co-opt the solstice to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Football ascends to a cacophonous overload. The fat-prone become engorged with bloat and guilt.

I am perhaps the embodiments of all three of these devotions. In terms of football, I played, coached and helped spawn an active college player. In terms of Christianity I am a Cradle Frozen Chosen (Episcopalian). And, well, even after losing 1/3 of myself about 5 years ago, my Body Mass Index remains in tilt.

These are not passive interests – I attend church every Sunday, suffer an enjoyable PTSD relationship with football, and, well, I eat.

You can lose a job, a political campaign and be sued at the drop of a retainer for making fun of any number of stereotypes. But there are safe outlets for our need to feel superior via mockery. Snookie might as well be in blackface for those who are not drunk themselves. The visually abhorrent “Greatest Loser” contestants are, in the end, losers to those who are less obese. The faithful of any stripe are actively derided as morons in search of validation by hipster atheism.

I can see these acceptable prejudices from several vantages. I attended an Ivy League school, kinda – (Cornell) – so my life is surrounded by post-graduate degrees, robust resumes and the attendant faith in all things intellectual. I did lose a ton of weight and confronted the absurd self delusion of getting very fat. Being an Episcopalian any aspect of evangelism makes my flesh crawl.

The pretentiously educated and the media that panders to us form a cocoon of comfort in what we “know” – kinda like everyone else. It’s just there are adverbs and obtuse analogies used in the mockery of the mock able. Football is fraught with F-Bombs and violence, and since so few have ever actually played (virtually no women and a tiny number in the pretentiously educated) its second-hand regard becomes a carnival of superficial conclusions. Similarly, the freak show of choirboy abuse, racist/homophobic/sexist acts, and wild hypocrisies/idiocies of fundamentalism allow for the widest of brushstrokes when depicting any religious activity. And the fat, are, well, – fat.

But hypocrisy is universal in humans. While football is viewed largely as a refuge for imbecilic scoundrels, baseball is beloved by the intelligentsia, because it combines arcania with just a soupcon of athleticism. Politics that simulate morality (like imposing food controls over fat and sugar) are central to the “correct” world view, – just without the icky God stuff. And if you are fat and intellectually pretentious you can always blame Transnational Agribusiness for putting corn syrup in everything.

Given my weight loss, my quiet religiosity and passive football presence, I can “pass” in the circles that feel free to heap vitriolic stereotyping upon my peeps. However these not-so-subtle prejudices regularly evidence themselves in autonomic reactions by those I encounter.

Eyes often widen when I mention going to church. Before the internet had pics to sift out the fat-phobic, when I was fatter than I am now, I know I lost several potential projects when those eyes widened again upon seeing my girth at the job audition interview. I have seen eyes widen when my Right Guard Son responds that he is a Psychology major (it must be news that Troglodyte Studies is not the required major for collegiate football players). I still see those same widened eyes in some circles when I ask if there’s white wine available, amid all the red.

What this means is that the human beings have not changed much despite our high-minded affects of enlightened inclusiveness and official embrace of diversity – we tend to justify our personal preferences with assumptive conclusions.

My local dominant culture here in the Northeast, where practicing Christians are in the minority, where eating junk food and fat is a moral decision, where football is becoming close to unindicted criminal activity in some eyes, very smart people find comfort in “correct” prejudices.

At least I was lucky enough not to have my incorrect trifecta of football, faith and fat become the perfect foursquare liability by being born south of the Mason Dixon line…

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